Review: Sir and Star — Olema

Last weekend we took a trip up the coast for a short weekend getaway to Point Reyes where we stayed in nearby Olema and enjoyed some great food. We made a reservation for a Saturday night dinner at Sir and Star, which my bf heard about a while back on SF Gate. If Michael Bauer thinks it’s good, I usually do too.

A very nice man at Sir and Star

A very nice man at Sir and Star

The Saturday menu is a prix fixe for $75 per person (not including drinks). The theme of the food is “hyper-local” with nearly the entire menu procured from the surrounding area in Marin. The restaurant itself dates back to the 1800s and is decorated accordingly as a sort of upscale lodge with old, creaky hardwood floors, high ceilings with intricate crown molding, candelabra, and a myriad of taxidermy birds displayed on the walls.

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Review: Hog Island Oyster Co. — Marshall, CA

This weekend we took a trip up to Point Reyes for some hiking, some eating, and some general out-of-the-city time. It was awesome. The weather was mostly beautiful (save the extreme wind conditions on half our Saturday hike), and some of the food was spectacular. I’ll do another post for our experience at Sir and Star, but wanted to quickly recap the fun stop we made at Hog Island Oyster Co. on our way out.

oyster

Having been to the Hog Island in the Ferry Building in SF a number of times (omg, try the clam chowder; it’s out of this world), I was keen to see what their home base was like. Directly bordering the east side of Tomales bay on Highway 1 is a tiny town called Marshall which houses a number of oyster farms and retailers. Oysters are the “thing” on this stretch of land, as they are harvested right there in the shallow waters of Tomales Bay. And while I’ve never been an oyster person, I wanted to see what it was about.

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Review: Beatrix — Chicago

On the day I left, we only had time for a late breakfast/early lunch. It was to be our farewell meal to Chicago, and we had no plans. As we hemmed and hawed in the hotel room about where and what to eat, I found Beatrix on my Yelp app. It sounded good — casual American food, nice atmosphere, some sophisticated menu selections. We tried it. It was perfect.

hummus

hummus , veggies, warm naan — $7

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Review: The Chicago Diner — Chicago

Next up in my series of Chicago eats is the Chicago Diner. Jon found this place for me; it’s a vegetarian restaurant all decked out like a 50’s diner serving all the good old-fashioned favorites, sans the meat. They’ve got it all: burgers, fries, sandwiches, Philly cheese steaks, meatloaf, and milkshakes, all with no meat products (and often completely vegan).

the radical reuben

the radical reuben

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Review: Table 52 — Chicago

This week I will be posting about my recent trip to Chicago where I enjoyed some really amazing food. The trip was only four days long, but my friend Jon and I did a bit of research beforehand to ensure we hit up some of Chicago’s best, though we were not opting to pay top dollar this time. And though the current title holder of Best Restaurant in America (also ranked 7th in the world), Alinea, was within our grasp physically, we weren’t feeling quite up to the challenge of pursuing a reservation ticket this time around.

veggie ravioli

Table 52: pea-filled ravioli with mushrooms, carrots, and other veggies

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Review(s): Palm Springs

Happy New Year!

You might think, oh, she hasn’t blogged in a few weeks, she is probably just being typically neglectful of her beloved blog. Wrong! I was on vacation, nerds.

good morning

good morning

Since I often speak in math: I wanted to go somewhere warm for the holiday break + I booked to late = Hawaii and Mexico were outrageously expensive + Florida is kinda far away + I’ve never been to Palm Springs. If you carry the one, it works out. Trust me, I’m an engineer.

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Review: Le Bernardin, NYC

Last month I went to New York City. While in Manhattan for five days, my food-loving friend, Jon, and I agreed to go to at least one world-class super schmancy restaurant and spend a ridiculous sum of money on food. Mission accomplished: we went to Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin. Please let me describe to you the most expensive meal I have ever eaten.

Inside Le Bernardin -- from website le-bernardin.com

Inside Le Bernardin — from website le-bernardin.com

Le Bernardin is a seafood restaurant. Their motto is “the fish is the star of the plate”, which, imho, could use some work, but they seem to be doing fine even with a sorta cheesy tagline. In 2009, Le Bernardin was voted 15th best restaurant in the world in the Restaurant magazine Top 50. Le Bernardin is one of only seven restaurants in New York awarded three Michelin stars, and is the restaurant which has held four stars from The New York Times for the longest period of time, having earned the ranking in early 1986. In 2013, Zagats ranked it the #1 restaurant in New York City*.

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Spain: We’re not just hungry, we’re Americans.

I went to Spain in late August for a week with my friend Mala. We met up with four other people (only one of whom we already knew) in Valencia in the southeast of Spain, threw some tomatoes, then headed to Barcelona for a few days with just the two of us. It was rad. A whirlwind trip, for sure, but definitely fun and definitely worth all the flying (2 stopovers on the way there!).

Seafood paella in Valencia, Spain

You might imagine that we ate food while we were there. It was pretty much a main activity. Since I could type about this all day, and I have about a billion photos, I’ll give a summary below and then you can scroll through the pictures until the rolly wheel on your mouse breaks. Enjoy.

  • Valencia is not my fav. We did have some good food there, but the city is mostly either touristy and cheesy, or sorta run down and Hayward-esque. They do have a strange area with a bunch of rad buildings housing museums and the like, and a cool beach area that’s super touristy but still nice. And it definitely was an AWESOME place to rent an apartment with five other rad people. And provided good access to the aforementioned tomato fight.
  • Barcelona is rad. Super touristy in the main part, but it’s beautiful, has great restaurants and shops, a nice wharf and beachfront area, and lots to do. Def way better on the gourmet food front. Mala and I felt like we were home here.
  • When you order wine, you order “vino tinto” or “vino blanco” (at least in Valencia). It’s funny. There typically isn’t a wine list (again, at least at all the places we went), and I have no idea what kind of wine I’m drinking. You just choose red or white. I thought it was funny.
  • Tapas. They’re everywhere. Lots and lots and lots of tapas restaurants, all boasting their own form of paella, which I think are all exactly the same. We never found great paella, unfortunately, and ended up getting pretty sick of tapas pretty fast, sadly. But we still had plenty, and they were usually pretty good. Here’s  a typical tapas menu:

Tapas menu in Valencia, Spain

Ok, now for food.

Tapas Hall of Fame

Calamari. I know, I love calamari. There were often many types of squid offered on any one tapas menu, and I never could figure out which one was the one I wanted (above). Sometimes I got grilled (still good) or big onion-ring sized rings (not as good). The smaller pieces of fried squid (above) was my fav kind.

Bravas. These are fried potato pieces slathered in an aioli sauce. When they were good, they were really good.

Russian salad. It’s everywhere. We finally mustered the balls to try it. It was delicious. Apparently it’s common in many regions, but the Spanish version typically consists of: minced boiled potato, minced boiled carrots, canned tuna, minced boiled eggs, peas, roast red pepper strips, green olives, and mayonnaise. The weird breadsticks are just there as an obstacle, as far as I can tell.

Tortilla. Yeah, it’s not like a Mexican one. This is like a potato quiche. It’s really good. And, I find it funny that they make tortilla sandwiches. In case you want some carbs with your carbs. Totally yum though.

Those were def my fav tapas. We ordered them again and again, while also trying to branch out each time. We tried paella a variety of times, and it was good, but it was never great. So much so that I’m not even going to include it in this post, except as the cover photo to make you think I’m going to talk about it. Trickery.

Other Good Food

When we got to Barcelona, we immediately made reservations at a fancy restaurant. It was necessary. And delicious. Mala powered through a bout of food poisoning from the day before, and we bought the crappiest umbrellas known to man to handle the pouring rain to make it to this schmancy Barcelona restaurant. This is the tuna tartare. Totally worth it.

This chocolate mousse (from aforementioned schmancy Barcelona restaurant) was amazing. It was light and fluffy and made almost completely of air somehow. The taste was incredible. We were mesmerized.

We found a vegetarian restaurant in Barcelona. We almost ordered everything on the menu. Then we didn’t. This was a good decision. These fried rice balls were bomb.

Pasta from vegetarian restaurant: good.

Chocolate fondue from the vegetarian restaurant. Mala was excited.

And, for the season finale, Mala and I found a nice place to have a full English breakfast. I’m not sure if you can tell how much food is on that table, but we each had 2 eggs, potatoes, baked beans, a grilled tomato, grilled mushrooms, bacon, toast and jam, and a blueberry pancake. We ate every bite. (She ate my bacon, I ate her tomatoes and much of her beans.) The Aussies next to us were impressed. Because “we’re not just hungry — we’re Americans”. Booya.

:)

China

I went to China. Hi, I’m back.

I ate food there. And I didn’t get any food poisoning as I am wont to do on vacation. Yeay! Even though I can’t exactly provide the same restaurant reviewing service about places in Beijing, I can still show some juicy pics and tell tales of some of the neato stuff I ate while I was there. And because I can, I will.

Picture of food so you’ll keep reading.

I will start by saying that we mainly ate at “Western” style restaurants in Beijing. This is not to say that the food at these restaurants isn’t Chinese or that it’s not authentic — it just means that the facility operates in a Western style. Typically, these restaurants are large, and you’re seated at a table by a hostess. The menu is typically very expansive and full of pictures. Your order is taken by a waiter/waitress. Sometimes this person speaks some English, often not so much. The pictures are helpful for this. Your food is brought to you and is typically meant to be shared among the people at your table. You use chop sticks. The facilities are clean and the food is of high quality like you might expect in, say, San Francisco.

You can get a $1 meal at a street vendor, which is certainly an “authentic” experience, but I don’t eat at the hot dog stands here, so I’m not sure why I would do it there. Not that I’d chide someone who did do that, but I’ve had my taste of food poisoning in a third world country, and I’m not willing to be as risky as I perhaps once was. So. We went for the classed-up places. And since we knew a local, he showed us to the best of the best.

Ok, I’ll shut up and get to the pictures:

First: pizza. Yeah, pizza in Beijing. What were we thinking? We were thinking that it was really good, that’s what. Also, deep fried Oreos. Ridiculous and not as good as I wanted them to be. But, there they are.

Amazing pizza from Kro’s Nest in Beijing. This pizza was like 30″ in diameter; half cheese, half veggie with white sauce. It was really good.

Deep fried Oreos are not as good as they sound.

Next up: wood ear mushrooms. These are all over the place (like, in food, not just on the ground) in Beijing. They’re delicious.

Wood ear mushrooms! Yum!

And then we had one of our first “fancy” Chinese dinners, which was totally worth the exorbitant price.

Eggplant with melted cheese in a bread bowl. Genius.

Veggie food stuffs in a banana leaf. Hard to eat, but delish.

Not-as-spicy-as-it-could-have-been mushroom dish. I was glad for the lack of spicy.

Next stop was a grungy dumpling restaurant waaay out behind a bunch of blind masseuse shops. (Your guess is as good as mine.) The dumplings were very good.

Cold dish of tofu skins (or something). A bit sweet, very tasty.

Dumplings! All veggie, of course.

Then on to the famous duck restaurant in Beijing where there is always a wait if you don’t have a reservation. We didn’t. We waited. Everyone liked the duck. I tried it; it tasted like chicken. This other stuff was way better.

Egg stuffed tomatoes. Weird. Good.

Stir fried bamboo shoots. But not the yucky ones they put in chow mein here. These might have been the best thing I ate the whole time.

These pot-sticker-sized balls of flavored tofu were soft like hummus. It was very hard to pick up, but really, really good. I wanted to spread it on a sandwich. I still do, actually.

We took a cooking class where we made this stir fry:

Stir fry of egg, carrots, cucumber, wood ear mushrooms, garlic, leek, lily flower ,and ginger. They added pork to the non-veggie one.

Then Jon and I ate food in Shanghai. We started off the weekend right by ordering way too much food. This restaurant had amazing light so my photos actually look good (finally).

The menu said fried bran or something weird, but it was really some sort of cold tofu or gluten dish. It was a bit sweet, had a spongy consistency, and was quite tasty.

The real deal: sweet and sour shrimp. This sweet and sour sauce was indeed both sweet and sour. It was creamy with mustard undertones. It was very good but also very rich.

Eggplant dish. Good but not great. So pretty though. And tongue-singeing hot (temperature, not spicy).

There it is: Chinese noodles. This wasn’t called “chow mein” on the menu, it was just called noodles. (Which is what it was.) I liked it.

We were having a harder time finding places to eat in Shanghai just because we didn’t do the appropriate research and didn’t have a local to point us in the right direction. This Italian place was right on the river and had good reviews (ah, the joys of traveling with a smart phone). This pizza was fab.

Yeah, another pizza. This one was really, really good. At “The Kitchen” on the east side of the river in Shanghai.

At the YuYuan Bazaar in Shanghai (crowded as ALL GET OUT. no, seriously, I wished everyone would get out…) there were a million dumpling shops. Some of them had immense lines. Few of them had any signage in English at all, though many had pictures (but you can’t see what’s inside the dumpling?!). We got all rogue and stood in front of the stock tray and pointed to some tubs of dumplings. No food poisoning + delicious dumplings = win.

Shanghai dumplings!

And if you’ve made it to the bottom of this post, kudos to you. Your prize will be a dumpling. I will give you a gift certificate for the place in Shanghai. Redeem at your leisure.